Feudal Macedonian Lord Dobromir Hrs (Chrysos)

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  • TrueMacedonian
    Senior Member
    • Jan 2009
    • 3820

    Feudal Macedonian Lord Dobromir Hrs (Chrysos)

    Macedonian Feudal Lord Dobromir Hrs (Chrysos)



    Dobromir Hrs (Chrysos) was a Macedonian Feudal Lord who ruled from a fortress called Prosek (Prosakos) near Strumica at the end of the 12th century AD. His date or place of birth are unknown but according to the Byzantine (East Roman) historian Nicetas Choniates Dobromir Hrs was “by birth a Vlach”. However one striking feature about Hrs is his first name, Dobromir, which is of Slavic origin. It may be possible to conclude that Hrs (or Chrysos as Choniates writes of him) was of mixed ethnic heritage (Macedonian and Vlach) or simply just Macedonian. In Nicetas Choniates Annals (which this article is based upon) the term Vlach seems to be what some modern historians call more of a derogatory term rather than an ethnic term. Another observation must be noted. Ethnicity mattered very little to the East Romans and the neighboring kingdoms. Religion is what mattered and this will be evident later in the article.
    This article is entirely based on Nicetas Choniates work. Anything quoted (“ “) is from his medieval text. Supporting sources added at the end of the article.


    Prosek Fortress

    Prosek (Prosakos to the East Romans) was a town fortress that once belonged to the Romans who used to battle away the invading Bulgarian Kingdom and other “Barbarians“. Eventually when trouble with invaders began to subside in the region the fortress was neglected and abandoned. After leaving Strumica Hrs moved to Prosek and must have realized that the fortress was indeed strong and ideal to hold off any army. Hrs made additions to Prosek, an already natural complex which was ideal for fortification, in which he “had a dwelling placed which could not be taken by the Romans”. The Vardar river was in the vicinity as well.
    Hrs had placed “stone-throwing engines” (mechanized sling shots and catapults) in a perimeter to strengthen any would be assault on Prosek. Weapons and food supply were collected and flocks of sheep and herds of cattle were put to graze along the mountain ridges. The complexity of the fortress was not easy for Nicetas Choniates to describe; “It is not easy to define the perimiters of the fortress, for it spreads out in width and length, extending into the rain forests and thickly wooded places”. The one drawback of the Prosek fortress was the lack of means to gather water. There was no water or wells so water would have to be brought up in pitchers from the Vardar river.
    Prosek today is known as Demir Kapija which is a Turkish name that means Iron Gate.

    At War With Alexios III Angelus

    Once an ally of the Romans Hrs was acquired by the Empire to fight against the Bulgarian empire of Peter and Asan with his 500 men. Apparently Hrs was imprisoned by the Romans for “leaning towards his fellow Vlachs; ever pressing ahead and canvassing to become ruler” according to Choniates. Peter and Asan, both considered Vlachs, would not actually qualify for much considering Hrs was independent of both the Roman and Bulgarian empires. Ethnicity in this case, although would appear to be prevalent according to Choniates text, is not. Hrs was an opportunist and looked to ways to expand his authority. He was eventually released by the Romans and given control of Strumica.
    In 1195 Isaac II was deposed and blinded by his brother Alexios III Angelus. When unrest broke out during Alexios III's reign, Dobromir Hrs again declared his independence, first in Strumica and then in the naturally fortified town of Prosek. After arming Prosek with an elite garrison he transferred his seat and fortified the town with defensive weapons and adequate stores of food. By repealing the Roman laws he introduced his own brand of barbarian rule thus betraying the emperor’s hopes, “and in taking up his own cause he, too, became an inexorable evil for the neighboring Romans”.
    From an ongoing campaign against the Vlachs and Cumans in 1197 the emperor proposed to seize Hrs “or at least to check his furtive incursions and his de-spoiling of the lands round about Serres”. The emperor moved rapidly against Hrs and assembled a considerable army at Kypsella, Thrace. But his objectives changed in his desire to return home. Choniates states “in vain he had gathered the troops and for naught had he made his way to Kypsella”.
    Alexios III Angelus finally focused on Hrs and from Solun (Salonika) marched out against him. In prose “Chrysos was not at all disturbed by the fact that the emperor was marching against him but made preparations to oppose him”. Romans, those experienced in warfare who consulted with the Emperor deemed it necessary to by-pass Prosek and to attack the surrounding towns and villages obedient to Hrs. Only after subduing these should the Romans advance against Prosek. “Thus the morale of the troops would be high because they would first destroy those places that were easy to overcome and come into possession of booty”. Hrs would then in turn alter his plans to the advantage of the Romans by surrendering or despairing of his situation. Those experienced Roman soldiers argued that if the first attack was against Prose “they could envision bloody sweat, great suffering, and the decapitated heads of fighting men”.
    In opposition of these experienced Roman soldiers were “the castrated chamberlains” led by George Oinaiotes. Oinaiotes persuaded the emperor to lead his army straight to Prosek and to take the war to Hrs directly and to brandish spear asserting;

    Should he (Hrs) be taken captive, then none will resist us in the future. Moreover, what prevents us from attacking the most vital area straightaway instead of engaging the enemy periodically and seasonally? Why should anyone tolerate tarrying for long in these barbaric and disagreeable lands for no gain or only a some small advantage at a season (summer 1197) when the Propontis is heavily laden with figs, melons, and other fruits of the earth which, planted by the hand of God in paradise, are now beginning to ripen. Would that we were standing on the plain of Rhegion gazing out over Aphameia and hailing holy Constantinople, sailing out to the luxuriant districts along the Pontos where the gentle, cool, life-giving north breeze ever blows, where newly caught fish jump and dolphins playfully leap in all directions, where the delight of bathing beckon everywhere and the lapping of silver waves invigorate the spectator, where twittering swallows cast their spells, where warbling nightingales provide a feast for the ears of those who wander about hither and yon, and all manner of birds chirp here and there in the thickets and pipe their melodies on the wing.

    The emperor rode full speed to Prosek to turn their reasoning into reality. Within the army of Alexios III were Turks who were sent by the satrap of the city of Ankara as allies. The army of the emperor razed several fortifications, burnt piles of fruit and wheat fields, and the Turks took captives by spear. Many in the emperor’s camp objected to the Turks taking the christian captives and sending them to Ankara as slaves. They viewed the captives as fellow Christians who worshipped God the same way they did and that they should at least become their servants and the Turks to receive “other imperial pledges and friendship, but the Emperor rejected their counsel outright”. Religion obviously mattered much here to those Romans who spoke out against the Turks regardless of what the inhabitants were and who ruled over them.
    Alexios had his army setup camp at Prosek upon arrival. He decided to make an attempt on the fortress at once. The Romans fought brave and well beating back the defenders of the walls and citadels. The Romans had the upper hand against Hrs and his army considering the obstacle that was Prosek, which was “strengthened in diverse ways the walls which Nature from the beginning had generously provided and fashioned”. The defenders of the wall scrambled back from the first section as the advanced fortification, which had been recently built as an outpost to protect the gates of this section, were about to be overrun by the Romans. And so at the walls with no defenders in sight the Romans overcame with what “they thought that they had accomplished a salutary and mighty deed…..they realized that they had labored in vain; when they called for mattocks (medieval hand tool used to break hard ground and stone) in order to pull down the walls, there was no one to furnish the requested tool”. Angry at the officers in charge of imperial tools the Romans tried prying the walls by using their hands and swords as crowbars. They eventually detached some stones from their joints and pulled down the bulwark. Comically, under fire by Hrs and his men above, the official in charge of the tools arrived with mattocks tied to a rope but too little too late because the work was already under way. Choniates opinion of this official of the imperial tools is as follows; “The scoundrel should be drowned forthwith or made to pay miserably for his actions as a brief respite for those who had suffered from combat as well as thirst and suffocation caused by the sun’s burning heat, but he prudishly rebuked them and with a loud smacking of the lips pretended to be vexed and quelled the resolve of these courageous men”.

    And as if that were not enough when the Romans asked for ladders to scale the walls none could be produced. Under fire, thirsty, tired, low in morale, and burning under the Macedonian sun, the Romans unwillingly departed.
    A retreat based on a lack of demolition tools made Dobromir Hrs and his men boast with jeering gleefulness towards the retreating Romans. But Hrs’ men even admitted that if the Romans did have their demolition tools that the fortress would have fallen and Hrs would be a prisoner of the Romans once again.

    Day two the battle is on again

    Day two and Alexios III Angelus was determined to defeat Dobromir Hrs and his army. The Romans returned to fight the Hrs army who were high in spirits and boastful from yesterdays events. Hrs’ stone-throwing engines (mechanized slingshots and catapults) killed many Romans. Ironically “the man who was responsible for discharging the stone missiles once served the Romans for pay”. Apparently this engineer was excellent at “turning the with and aiming the sling”. But when his salary wasn’t forthcoming, he returned to Hrs. The damage this one man and the rest of the men operating the stone-throwing engines, not just from them but from collapsing rocks of the cliffy fortress that gave way, was immense. The Romans once again fell back.

    That night Hrs’ men came out from behind the wall and destroyed the siege engines that the Romans had positioned on the hills. The Roman night watch fled their posts and into their General’s tent. Bewildered from his bed, this General named John, ran in fear and fled. The night watch followed. Hrs’ men divided the contents of the General’s tent and spent the night mocking and laughing at the debacle of the Romans.

    Embarrassing Peace

    Unable to fully infiltrate the Prosek fortress, an army very low in morale, and not willing to spend another night in a camp in this barbaric and disagreeable land, and embarrassed to no end, Emperor Alexios III Angelus sued for peace. He ceded Prosek, Strumica, and the lands about to Hrs. And, although already a married man, even offered Hrs the East Roman General Manuel Kamytzes daughters hand in marriage to secure the peace agreement. Hrs deposed of his wife and Alexios divorced the General Kamytzes daughter from her husband. Thus the East Roman empire recognized the independent rule of Dobromir Hrs.

    Origin of “Chrysos” and the many tongues of Dobromir

    According to some modern historians Dobromir took the name “Chrysos” (Hrs in Macedonian) when he was married. “Chrysos” in Greek (language was called Roman in the East Roman era) means “golden”. Hrs may have been suggesting himself as a winner over the Roman empire. Or maybe this was a sign of Romanisation in order to move up in the world of Rome if such an opportunity presented itself. This is merely speculation but warranted later on in this article for Hrs was indeed an opportunist looking for ways to rise in greater power.

    In celebration of the marriage between Hrs and Kamytzes daughter Dobromir gorged himself of food and wine. His wife, however, ate in reluctance from plates placed in front of her respecting the code for behavior for newlyweds. Hrs annoyed at her eating habits commanded her to eat with him. And when she didn’t comply immediately he flew into a rage. Speaking his native tongue(s) (Macedonian, Vlach, or both) for some time he spoke to his wife in Greek (Rhomaoi) with contempt “Do not eat or drink”. This display of languages illustrates that Hrs was bi-lingual possibly tri-lingual.


    Hrs and Manuel Kamytzes Rebel Alliance

    Manuel Kamytzes, an East Roman General, cousin of the Emperor Alexios, father-in law to Dobromir Hrs, was in prison in Bulgaria and being held for ransom. Kamytzes sent letters to the emperor to pay the ransom but Alexios refused to pay. So Kamytzes appealed to his son-in law Hrs to buy his freedom. Whether out of influence from his wife of the political influence that Kamytzes carried, Hrs paid the ransom and Kamytzes set out to Prosek.

    Kamytzes insisted that the emperor pay Hrs back the ransom money. The emperor ignored Kamytzes request and threw it to the wayside.
    So in a fit of rage and desperation Kamytzes along with Hrs decided to form an alliance and to attack the Roman themes that bordered Prosek. They steamrolled through Pelagonia and Prilep, incited revolts in distant places, penetrated the Thessalian Tempe and took possession of the plains, and disturbed the Hellas theme and made the Morea (Peloponnesus) unstable.
    The Hrs/Kamytzes revolt influenced a Cypriot “by race” named John Spyriodonakis to revolt. Spyriodonakis, a craftsman by trade, became governor of Smolena and was later subdued easily by the emperor’s son-in law Alexios Palaiologos.

    Meanwhile Manuel Kamytzes established rule in Northern Thessaly while Hrs returned to Prosek.

    In order to break the rebel alliance between Hrs and Kamytzes Alexios III had something conniving in mind. He offered his grand daughter Theodora’s hand in marriage to Hrs. She was previously betrothed to another feudal lord of Macedonia, Ivanko, who was also responsible for the capture of General Manuel Kamytzes who he sent to the Bulgarian Tsar “as a gift”.

    Hrs, the opportunist that he was, divorced his wife, which broke any relation he had with Manuel Kamytzes in turn breaking their alliance, and married Theodora Angelina. Hrs must have realized that by marrying someone in so close of a relation to the emperor that he would have opportunities to gain more power. Unfortunately for Hrs the emperor demanded that he relinquish Pelagonia and Prilep. This act alone caused Kamytzes to withdraw from Thessaly, partly because he was defeated in battle and partly because he decided to flee. In 1202 the emperor took Strumica away from Hrs as well leaving him isolated in Prosek.


    The end of Dobromir

    What happens to Dobromir Hrs after the Emperor took Strumica remains a mystery. Some modern scholars say that the Bulgarian empire may have killed him or imprisoned him and taken Prosek. Others say that the East Romans put him out of commision indefinitely. Whatever happened to Hrs he left an interesting story behind.
    Dobromir Hrs was if anything a successful Macedonian feudal lord that took on a giant and even beat him with a little help from the Macedonian sun.




    Main Source

    O city of Byzantium: annals of Niketas Choniatēs By Nicetas Choniates, Translated by Harry J. Magoulias



    Other Sources

    Macedonian Struggle for Independence Part 7 - The Hrs, Strez and Dragota Uprisings By Risto Stefov


    Byzantium's Balkan frontier: a political study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204 by Paul Stephenson (page 307, footnote 95, in

    reference to when Dobromir took the name “Chrysos”)

    History of the Byzantine State by Georgije Ostrogorsky (pages 410 -411).
    Slayer Of The Modern "greek" Myth!!!
  • Soldier of Macedon
    Senior Member
    • Sep 2008
    • 13675

    #2
    I take it you wrote this article yourself, TM? Excellent work and research mate.
    In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.

    Comment

    • TrueMacedonian
      Senior Member
      • Jan 2009
      • 3820

      #3
      Yeah. It wasn't easy starting it. But it took on a life of its own eventually. I've never really seen much in depth analysis on Hrs and the Macedonian feudal lords was always an interesting subject to me.
      Slayer Of The Modern "greek" Myth!!!

      Comment

      • Soldier of Macedon
        Senior Member
        • Sep 2008
        • 13675

        #4
        And why wouldn't they be mate, Dobromir appears to have been a Strumicanec like you also, all you hear from Strumica during East Rome and the Ottoman Empire are stories about brave and brazen feudal lords and rebels. Orli ste vie Strumicani!
        In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.

        Comment

        • Bij
          Member
          • Oct 2009
          • 905

          #5
          wow. very interesting. well done

          Comment

          • TrueMacedonian
            Senior Member
            • Jan 2009
            • 3820

            #6
            Originally posted by Soldier of Macedon View Post
            And why wouldn't they be mate, Dobromir appears to have been a Strumicanec like you also, all you hear from Strumica during East Rome and the Ottoman Empire are stories about brave and brazen feudal lords and rebels. Orli ste vie Strumicani!
            Yeah the connection with Strumica is hard to avoid with some of these characters lol.
            Slayer Of The Modern "greek" Myth!!!

            Comment

            • julie
              Senior Member
              • May 2009
              • 3869

              #7
              TM you are awesome
              Well done
              "The moral revolution - the revolution of the mind, heart and soul of an enslaved people, is our greatest task."__________________Gotse Delchev

              Comment

              • TrueMacedonian
                Senior Member
                • Jan 2009
                • 3820

                #8
                Thanks you guys. According to Florin Curta the Vlachs were rebels so maybe the term Vlach simply meant rebel as well as a derogatory word.
                Slayer Of The Modern "greek" Myth!!!

                Comment

                • Soldier of Macedon
                  Senior Member
                  • Sep 2008
                  • 13675

                  #9
                  That is a distinct probability TM, because the term 'Vlach' did not in all cases represent the Latin-speaking populations of the Balkans. It is in instances such as these that critical research is required, taking into consideration the social aspect of the times, the populations in the area, and the varying terminology used by writers from East Rome. I notice some of the assertions in your article have been questioned at one other place, one wonders why the same person isn't attending Greek forums and raising the issue of Vlachs in Greece with them, who are all, wholesale, referred to as 'Hellenes'. Macedonia has always respected its Vlach community.

                  One of the funniest rebuttals by some of these people, is the fact that they ask us to find "ethnic" Macedonians - Note the word "ethnic", I would love for these same people to find me references of their people during the East Roman period that consists of the "ethnic" prefix.
                  In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.

                  Comment

                  • TrueMacedonian
                    Senior Member
                    • Jan 2009
                    • 3820

                    #10
                    One of the funniest rebuttals by some of these people, is the fact that they ask us to find "ethnic" Macedonians - Note the word "ethnic", I would love for these same people to find me references of their people during the East Roman period that consists of the "ethnic" prefix.
                    I agree SoM. The sheer stupidity that comes out of Athens is very ridiculous.
                    Slayer Of The Modern "greek" Myth!!!

                    Comment

                    • Soldier of Macedon
                      Senior Member
                      • Sep 2008
                      • 13675

                      #11
                      Bump. This was an excellent piece of information about a part of our history that isn't given enough credit.
                      In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.

                      Comment

                      • Coastal
                        Banned
                        • Jun 2010
                        • 104

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Soldier of Macedon View Post
                        One of the funniest rebuttals by some of these people, is the fact that they ask us to find "ethnic" Macedonians - Note the word "ethnic", I would love for these same people to find me references of their people during the East Roman period that consists of the "ethnic" prefix.
                        It would be really funny if someone really asks for "Ethnic"..smth ref.

                        I believe though that the questioning is about if there are quotes in teh medieval times about the term with ethnic and not geographical character.

                        Comment

                        • TrueMacedonian
                          Senior Member
                          • Jan 2009
                          • 3820

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Coastal View Post
                          It would be really funny if someone really asks for "Ethnic"..smth ref.

                          I believe though that the questioning is about if there are quotes in teh medieval times about the term with ethnic and not geographical character.
                          Something you and your people should take into consideration.
                          Slayer Of The Modern "greek" Myth!!!

                          Comment

                          • Soldier of Macedon
                            Senior Member
                            • Sep 2008
                            • 13675

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Coastal View Post
                            It would be really funny if someone really asks for "Ethnic"..smth ref.

                            I believe though that the questioning is about if there are quotes in teh medieval times about the term with ethnic and not geographical character.
                            It would be funny Coastal, and it is each time a Greek asks the question. How does one define the quotes as being either ethnic or geographic in character? Is there a set and consistent criteria that can be used across all examples?
                            In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.

                            Comment

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